Friday, May 21, 2010

Ode to Ron Guidry (1978)

This is part 6 in the From Hank to Hideki series, chronicling the 40 most memorable sports moments of my lifetime.

Previous: The Boston Massacre (1978)

For a few weeks during sixth grade, my English class's focus was on poetry. Besides memorizing and reciting "Casey at the Bat" to a standing ovation from the class, I wrote an ode to my newest favorite baseball player.

If you'd asked me back then who my favorite Yankee was, I would have been hard pressed to decide between Thurman Munson, Willie Randolph, Graig Nettles and Ron Guidry. But, Guidry was the emerging star, and judging by the fact that I had a hand-made "Louisiana Lightning" t-shirt, I would say Gator got the nod. Oh yeah, and that's not to mention this poem:

Ode to Ron Guidry

I'm not sure what to make of the pseudonym I was using back then, but I assure you I wrote this poem on the morning of October 13, 1978. How do I know exactly what day it was? Well, that was the day that Guidry was to take the mound, for my beloved Yankees, in Game 3 of the World Series. With his team already in a 2-0 hole, I was one of a countless number of fans praying that he would do what he had done 15 times during the regular season: pitch the team to victory following a loss.

Yes, you read that right. Ron Guidry posted 15 wins following Yankees losses during the 1978 season, yet he lost out on the MVP award to a player whose team coughed up a 14-game lead in the span of 51 days. Throw in the fact that he was 25-3 with a 1.74 ERA, 0.95 WHIP and 248 strikeouts, and I'll need someone to convince me that there has ever been a starting pitcher more deserving of an MVP than Guidry was in '78.

I guess I should explain this Joe Cronin Award thing. When I learned that Guidry had been named co-winner of the award with Jim Rice of the Red Sox, I thought it brought a little more prestige than it turns out it does. Awarded for "distinguished achievement," I believe it was an American League-only award given out from 1973 to roughly 1993. But, that's all I know about it. There's a scarcity of information on the web, and although I did email the Baseball Hall of Fame Library, I'm not going to wait to hear back before I post this.

Guidry did beat the Dodgers that night, but it was another one of my favorite players who was the game's hero. Guidry pitched a complete game, and allowed only one run, but gave up eight hits and walked an additional seven batters. Yankees third baseman Graig Nettles' defense saved probably two runs in each of the 3rd and 5th innings, with several of his patented diving plays on hard-hit lined drives and ground balls. The Yankees won the game 5-1, the first of four consecutive victories that brought them their second consecutive World Series championship.

I was definitely spoiled by my baseball team's success, but this may have made the failures of the team I followed in my second favorite sport hurt even more. The torment of being a young Giants fan had yet to reach its pinnacle, but that moment was coming sooner rather than later.

Update (5/26/10): I received a very quick response from the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. They sent me a press release from 1999, after Wade Boggs was named that year's recipient, which listed the past winners of the award. It appears the Joe Cronin Award for "significant achievement" hasn't been given out since.

Next: Miracle at the Meadowlands (1978)

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